The London fetish scene, and the way the world at large sees fetish, is undergoing through a complicated genesis.
Like many other aspects of LGBT culture, it’s been monetised, sanitised and thrust blinking into the bright lights mainstream culture – film stars parade red carpets in harnesses, while starter slope garments like jockstraps, leather wristbands and chains are now par for the course at juggernaut parties like Sink The Pink
More young people are into fetish than ever before, and fetishwear companies are making millions. But is it good or bad?
Brew Hunter runs Mastery, a leather night at The Backstreet, London’s last remaining leather bar. We got his thoughts on how Fetish will be affected by 2019’s unstoppable cultural steamroll.
Why do you think more young people are getting into fetish?
Every aspect of the scene, from drag to S&M, the whole rainbow of it…I think it’s so much more accessible now. Online, in print, in mainstream media. Even things like 50 Shades Of Grey. I never saw that mainstream exposure when I was a teenager. None of us did. You’d go to a pub or a club, that’s how you discovered it. So much is online now. I think people are quite woke now about a lot of things. Especially a lot of guys who do have that feeling for power play, S&M, stuff like that…those youngsters aren’t as frightened as they used to be.
What do you think of celebrities wearing harnesses on red carpets?
Things like this come and go. It doesn’t make major waves in the fetish community. Something that pisses me off slightly is someone just wearing a harness and a jockstrap and calling themselves a Leather Man. Being a Leather Man isn’t just about what you wear – it’s your attitude, it’s loads of things.
So what do you think is the key for navigating that?
So the challenge for me, and The Backstreet, and for Mastery, is…how do we get these younger guys who are interested in fetish, through the doors, and not to feel frightened.
What do you mean by frightened?
Things like consent. Of course, the leather community…it’s a sexualised thing. But leather has always championed that cause from day one. Especially when you’re dealing with things like blindfolding, gagging, burning – the heavy end of things – consent HAS to be there. If a sub consents to be put in a particular situation, a responsible top then has to keep reading how far this lad wants to be pushed, needs to be pushed, is able to be pushed. Especially with things like BDSM, because it’s very much reading, power play, taking a sub on a journey…it’s the least drug-focused part of our scene. Because you have to have a clear head to fully appreciate the endorphins and the feelings. There’s no point me flogging and fucking someone who’s too off their head to appreciate it.
Perhaps the apps might make it easier for people with very specific fetishes to find each other?
Particularly Recon has now made it EXTREMELY easy for people to find fetishes. It’s great that Recon has facilitated these ropes between us all – we can find each other so much more easily. And what’s great is you can talk for a while, and you know within a few minutes if that person is putting words together in a way you like. If it’s like “whats up how u” or “dick pic?” then you think, sorry, not tonight. But then you talk to people who are more worthwhile and it can be really rewarding. Particularly if someone has a sense of humour – that’s certainly not incompatible with fetish. But also – GET THE FUCK OUT! Don’t just stay on the apps, get out there.
Tell me a bit more about Mastery
Well I want to open it up a bit more, but I want to open it up without it losing its provocative nature.
That’s quite a challenge
It is. Because by shouting it from the rooftops, I’m going against what I want it to be. I always wanted it to be a recreation of the old days of leather clubs, which were underground and behind closed doors. And that’s what’s turned so many guys on about it – the fact that you don’t just walk in off the street, that’s not the way it is.
What’s the history around leather?
Well leather and rubber have been around since World War 2. The war was the first time a lot of guys had had man-to-man contact. If you lived in Alabama, you would never have had a gay experience before. Then suddenly all these gay guys were thrown into the army and had tonnes of sex. So when they came back they were like “fuck, now what do we do?” So what they did is they formed motorcycle clubs. Which was a “manly” thing, where people wouldn’t think “hey, what are those twenty men all doing together?” So that’s where leather came from. And of course because they were in the army, protocal, service, the word “sir”…that’s all tied in with it too.
LGBT culture is changing and developing A LOT at the moment…do you think the same applies to fetish culture?
I think within the next five years, the fetish scene won’t be nearly as compartmentalised. As a leather man, I have now drifted into rubber – which is slightly dirtier. I think a lot of leather men have discovered the darker and heavier side of rubber. Because rubber sort of bounced out of nowhere – as did Pups. Pup has only really happened in the last five years. Especially in America, it’s exploded. I’m not into Pups, I’m more into dirty dogs. But I’m into all sorts – different aspects of different fetishes. And what’s great is I can look at them all and steal aspects of each one. That I find is extremely exciting.
So you think the fetish scene being more inclusive is a good thing?
As long as we all have respect for each other. And I mean this in a good way – the millennials are coming up. As long as they realise what people over forty went through. And in their fifties and sixties. There are muscle leather daddies in their fifties and sixties who younger guys are falling over themselves to get with. But they need to know what guys like that went through in the 70s and 80s. Because it’s so easy now, you pop a blue pill and everything’s tickety-boo. But as long as we all have respect and enthusiasm for the whole rainbow tribe – it’s all good.
Brew Hunter runs Mastery at The Backstreet. To keep up to date with his events and to find out more, head to masteryonline.co.uk or follow @MASTERYmen on Twitter.